How To Stay Sane While Planning for Your Wedding!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Goodness Of Everyday Life

As you know, some weeks are more interesting than others – and for me, the week beginning on the 18th  was one of those weeks. . .

On Sunday, I did a baby blessing for Don and Leslie (all names changed).  I officiated their wedding seven years ago. They both had been raised Catholic but are not regular church goers and so they didn’t want a formal baptism.  Their Catholic roots, though, tugged at them – they wanted to do something to welcome and celebrate little Brett’s arrival in this world, in their family.

And so we had a blessing with family and close friends – people I first met seven years ago on another day of blessing.  It was all so simple and so poignant.  Leslie read a quote I had used at their wedding:

“A wise woman of old once wrote that, ‘It is the quality of life that matters most.  The taste of the food on the table; the light in the room; the peace and wholeness of the moment.  Perfect love casts out fear and the only perfect form of love found on earth is the wordless commitment of family.’”

Into such a world we welcomed Brett.

On Tuesday I was on line at a Starbucks in Glendale.  I was checking email when a man tapped me on the shoulder.  He was smiling, “JP, you probably don’t remember me, but I’m Fred and you married me and my wife Rosanna almost ten years ago.”  I did remember them and I was so happy to reunite.  Fred went on, “We still smile when we think on our ceremony and I just want you to know that I’m probably more in love with Rosanna than I’ve ever been.”

Starbucks was never so good. . .

On Thursday afternoon I went to the Pasadena home of Mark and Terry.  They’re both at an age when AARP regularly sends them materials and because they’ve been together many years they’ve decided it’s time to marry and legally protect their life together.  BUT, they really do want a big wedding celebration – later in the year, though.  And so they decided to have a “secret wedding” with just two close friends.  It was held in Terry’s home, which had belonged to her grandmother.

Warm.  Cozy.  Intimate.  It was a lovely way to spend a weekday afternoon!

And then on Saturday I was off to Orange County to officiate the wedding of RJ and Alice, who were more than half the age of Mark and Terry.  Over 200 friends and family came to cheer them on in their commitment.

Maybe it’s because their wedding culminated for me a week of special moments, I found myself especially moved as they offered their vows to each other.

There is so much hoopla surrounding a wedding, as well there should be.  But what this ceremony-packed week showed me, reminded me, is that a wedding celebrates a couple’s commitment to honor and relish and live the ordinary routine of daily life.

WHAT do they all this week’s moments have in common?  I think it can be summed up in this quote from the movie, “Shall We Dance?”

“We need a witness to our lives. There's a billion people on the planet… I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you're promising to care about everything. You're saying, 'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness.’”

That’s what all these couples were doing – bearing witness to each other’s lives.  And I couldn’t be happier or more honored that they invited me to share the celebrating of that witnessing!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Having A Difficult Conversation – Sparked By Wedding Choices

Last year I posted here an openletter to the divorced parents of a bride or groom.  It was a simple plea for parents to put aside any animosity and generously focus on the joy of their child’s wedding.  To be honest, the letter did not generate the heated response I had anticipated!  But then, a few months ago, out of the blue, I received an email from Roger (names changed), a divorced father whose daughter, Susan, is getting married later this year.  Roger wrote that my “letter” helped him realize that more than anything he wants to be emotionally present for his daughter and future son-in-law.  Of course, there is a “but”!

Roger and his wife divorced when Susan was little.  His ex-wife eventually married Jack and as Susan’s step-dad he’s been a huge part of her life.  While Roger is not a buddy with his ex-wife and Jack they have always respected one another.  And all three are contributing to the cost of the wedding.  So, what’s the “but”?

Susan has asked Roger to escort her down the aisle and she and her fiancé, Brad, have asked Jack to officiate the ceremony (he’ll be getting ordained online).  Roger feels confused and slighted as it appears that Jack is being given a larger and more important role in the wedding celebration.  In addition, Roger’s family is Jewish and Jack is not.  What will people say if there’s no rabbi?  To his credit, Roger doesn’t like feeling petty.  On the other hand, he doesn’t like feeling confused.  He asked me what he should do.

I only know what Roger told me and so, of course, there are several sides to this story.  Whatever the “real” and full story might be, Roger is not the first parent to feel slighted by the decisions of a bride and groom – and you don’t have to be divorced to feel confused!

Here are some pointers I offered Roger during a phone conversation:

Start from the belief that no slight is intended.  Roger said that he had a good relationship with Susan, as did her step-dad Jack, so we can legitimately presume that Susan and Brad are seeking to do their best.  The great traditional honor is for a father to escort his daughter down the aisle.  Because Susan’s fiancé is not Jewish and because Susan’s step-dad is not Jewish and because Susan and her fiancé have decided to have a non-denominational ceremony, it makes sense why they would ask her step-dad.  He is an ideal officiant (theoretically) in that he appeals to both sides.

It doesn’t matter what people think.  I know – simple for me to say!  I gently reminded Roger that his mother is deceased and so it doesn’t matter if she would have been disappointed that her only granddaughter is not being married by a rabbi.  The dear woman no longer has to worry about such things!  I urged him not to worry about what people will say because if anyone objects to Susan not being married by a rabbi, then, they can stay home and binge watch their fav TV series!  A wedding is a day for joy, not judgment.

Trust your relationship with Susan and ask her to help you sort out your feelings by explaining her decision.  I reminded Roger that he is not asking Susan to get his permission for anything; rather, he’s simply asking her to help him make sense of a new type of celebration because he wants to be fully present for her and her Brad.

A great communication tool is something known as “Perception Checking.”  If you don't understand why someone is saying or doing whatever, here’s the template to kick off the conversation:  “When you (describe factually, without judging, what’s confusing you), I wasn’t sure if you (offer a possible interpretation of why you think the person is doing what they’re doing) or if (offer yet another possible interpretation).  Please help me understand because I feel confused and I very much want to be your dad that day.”

Clean – honest – no games!

I went on to suggest that, if possible, Roger, his ex-wife and Jack, together with the couple, explore how to broaden the scope of the ceremony so it’s not focused on Jack and is more inclusive of both families – after all, Brad has parents!

·      Both mothers could do a reading (they alternate stanzas).
·      All three dads could give the blessing at ceremony’s end.
·      Jack could make clear in his opening remarks that he speaks on behalf of all the parents.

Roger liked what I had to say, but, let’s face it – all of this is tricky because people see a wedding from different perspectives.  When it comes to communicating with family, we rely on our default settings, especially when buttons get pressed. 

So the question Roger needs to ask (and perhaps you) is, “What can I do differently, so as to get heard and understood, so as to hear and understand?”

Roger assured me that he was going to talk with his daughter because even though it would be a hard conversation to have, more than anything, he did not want to end up causing her pain.  And besides, he wanted to enjoy every minute of her wedding.  But in order to do that, he had to clear up his confusion.

Again, the ultimate question, whose answer will guide all your decisions is this: “Who do you want to be – for the couple – during one of the seminal times in their life together?”

The answer to that question will be the best gift you can give your child and her/his spouse!

PS:  I didn’t have the opportunity to speak with Susan and Brad.  If I had, though, this is what I would have suggested to them:

As a bride, as a groom, as a couple, it’s easy to become so focused on what you want, that you can presume so much, too much, of those you love.  To reduce miscommunication, practice these 5 strategies:

1.     No surprises – keep all VIPs in the loop throughout the planning.
2.     Be honest in talking with parental units – no guilt-tripping (no matter how tempting – or potentially rewarding).
3.     Don’t assume responsibility for your parents’ feelings.  This isn’t about “making” them happy.  However, don’t trample their feelings.
4.     “Because” – that simple word goes a long to bringing about understanding.  People appreciate understanding the “why” behind a decision.
5.     Keep channels open – “this is what I need from you” can probably never be said too many times!

And what everyone needs to remember is this: you can disagree and still love!

Friday, January 23, 2015

What To Say After 20+ Years Of Marriage

Last year I asked friends who’ve been married ten years or longer to share their thoughts on marriage.  To make it easier, I sent them a list of ten questions and asked that they answer at least five each.

My friends Anthony and Melissa have been married for twenty years (I think!).  Anthony was quick to respond; and I was waiting for Melissa’s answers before I posted.  However, Melissa is in the throes of prepping for the publication of her first book, “Pieces of My Mother” which will be published on May 5th.  I’m thrilled for her and so, hey, I’m going to cut her slack and wait until later in the year for her answers!

In the meantime, here are Anthony’s. . .

My wish for all of you is that 20 years from now, your own answers will be as wonderfully heartfelt!

PS: And if you’re wondering about the photo – I couldn’t get a photo of Anthony + Melissa, so I decided to go with one of their youngest child, GianMarco (6) – truly, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!


1.  What do you know today about marriage that there was no way you could have known before you got married?

Well - first of all, how the marriage will ultimately turn out.  Sounds like a truism, however, I didn't know if I'd get bored with my wife after 10 years, if she'd get bored with me, if we'd have kids, where we'd end up -- so I'd point to that future life together, pregnant with possibility and hope and potentially despair, as a most potent piece of knowledge I did not possess.  While marriage recognizes what already is (as you say), it also commits to what might be in the
future.  And for me, looking back, it was important to bind that commitment to our future together - wherever we might end up.

2.  What three words do you think of when you think of your wedding day?
"Radiant in white." 
(Sorry - I was so struck by seeing Melissa in her wedding dress for the first time.)

3.  Why haven’t you gotten divorced?
Because we've both continued to grow and surprise and support each other.

4.  What three things are you grateful for in your spouse?
(1) Her good heart; (2) her infinite and abiding love for our children; (3) her (almost) unconditional support of my personal aspirations.

5.  One sentence advice you’d give to a couple planning to get married?
Do your diligence and seek out counseling or a retreat that will help you ask the questions of each other that you've previously avoided asking.

6.  What has most surprised you about being married?
Honestly?  That I'd still be passionately and physically attracted to my wife after nearly a quarter century of marriage.

7.  How has your partner helped you become who you are today?
She's supported me in pursuing my endeavors.  When I needed her to uproot her life and follow me for graduate education or a job, she followed.

8.  Are you happy you had the celebration you had – or do you wish you had eloped? And if you did elope then just flip the question around!
I'm most happy with the celebration we had.  We were surrounded by everyone who mattered to us, who loved us, and who could witness our commitment to each other - and Melissa and I worked to keep the costs down for the wedding, but the fun- factor up: we held the reception at the house she grew up in (full of memories), we found a discount caterer who still managed to serve fabulous food - and we asked personal friends to celebrate the wedding and ceremony (you, JP)

9.  What did you experience at your wedding that you hope other couples experience at theirs?
The pure joy of being surrounded by more love and well-wishes than you'll most likely ever have in this lifetime.   
10.  In no more than 140 characters sum up your thoughts on marriage!
To the groom - your job is to get your bride into Heaven; to the bride - your job is to get your groom into Heaven.  That's it.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Eat - Drink - and Make Merry!

Last Fall I did a wedding at a beach resort here in SoCal.  The couple had hired one of my fav event planners, and everything about the celebration reminded me why this planner is one of my favs!

After the ceremony, the bride, who I’ll call Sharon, asked me:
“How do you think it went?”

I was surprised since that’s the question I usually ask the couple (maybe not that directly, but I try to find out if they’re happy right after the ceremony).

I asked Sharon, “How did you like it?”

Sharon exclaimed, “I loved it!”

Relieved, I said, “Then that’s all that matters!”

And ya know what?  That is ALL that matters – are you enjoying your celebration – if your guests and family aren’t able to join in the fun THEN that’s their problem – NOT yours!

I know, I know – easier said than done, BUT. . .

Friday, January 16, 2015

A Great Wedding Video!

Okay, so here's a GREAT wedding video to kick off the weekend! 


If you have to stand on your head to make somebody happy,

all you can expect is a big headache.
Ilene Beckerman

I recently came across this quote and love it for so many reasons. . .

What about you?  In the midst of all your wedding planning, do you find yourself standing on your head?  Why are you doing that to yourself?  How long do you think the person you’re trying to make happy will remain happy before they make you stand on your head again? 

Walking down the aisle with a headache is no fun – so what can you and your partner do to get you standing on your two feet and not your head?!

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Gifts Of Your Parents

Love doesn’t sit there like a stone, it has to be made, like bread;
remade all of the time, made new.
Ursula LeGuin

I recently officiated the wedding of couple where the bride’s parents were in the midst of divorcing after thirty years of marriage.  I felt for the bride – and knew that I could not imagine what she must be feeling and experiencing. 

As I prepared for the ceremony, I found myself thinking about the bride’s parents.  I kept wondering – how will they feel?  What will they think during the ceremony?

Actually, many of the couples that come to me were raised by single parents or within blended families.  Perhaps that’s true of you and / or your partner.

I know this might seem like an odd question – or even an impertinent question, BUT. . . did you ever ask your parents why they divorced?

AND. . .have you and your partner talked about what you are going to do in your marriage so as you don’t recreate the mistakes of your parents?

AND, if your parents are still happily married, have you ever asked them why?  I suspect their ‘secret’ is not a secret, BUT. . .

Have you and your partner talked about what you like best in your respective parents’ marriage and what you’re going to do to recreate it in your marriage?

And if you haven’t asked these questions, THEN why haven’t you?!

And If you have been married before, have you and your partner talked about what you learned from that time and experience in your life? 

Have you talked about how the mistakes you once made are not going to be remade?

The first duty of love is to listen.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

20 Questions To Get You Thinking!

John Gottman is a relationship guru – and that is not an exaggeration.  He’s written bestselling books on relationships and marriage, he’s appeared on Oprah,

I’m not sure where I came across the following list of 20 Questions, BUT according to Gottman, the more of these questions you and your partner can answer AND the more happy and satisfied you are with those answers, then the stronger is your relationship.

Because of the recent divorce of dear friends of mine, I am now, more than ever, on a ”talking is essential” kick!

So, why don’t you and your partner take some time and consider these questions.


1. I can name my partner's best friends.

2. I know what stresses my partner is currently facing.

3. I know the names of some of the people who  have been irritating my partner lately.

4. I can tell you some of my partner's life dreams.

5. I can tell you about my partner's basic philosophy of life.

6. I can list the relatives my partner likes the least

7. I feel that my partner knows me pretty well

8. When we are apart, I often think fondly of my partner.

9. I often touch or kiss my partner affectionately.

10. My partner really respects me.

11. There is fire and ·passion in this relationship.

12. Romance is definitely still part of our relationship.

13. My partner appreciates relationship.

14. My partner generally likes my personality.

15. Our sex life is mostly satisfying.

16. At the end of the day my partner is glad to see me.

17. My partner is one of my best friends.

18. We just love talking to each other.

19. There is lots of give and take in our discussions.

20. My partner listens respectfully, even when we disagree.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A New Year's Wedding Resolution - 2015

In that book which is my memory, 
on the first page of the chapter 
that is the day when I first met you, 
appear the words: 

‘here begins a new life.’

Happy New Year!  And if you’ve just gotten engaged or are getting married in 2015 – CONGRATULATIONS! 

With all the excitement (and craziness) of planning (even if you’re just starting), you may have tossed aside the whole idea of New Year’s “resolutions.”  I’d like, though, to suggest that you and your partner consider making at least one New Year’s resolution. . . and it’s this. . .

Resolve to not lose sight of what your wedding is really all about!

For what it’s worth, I think your wedding is ultimately a gift. . .

I think it’s a gift you’re giving to your guests.  For one day, one weekend, people can remember what life is all about – love, loyalty, family and friends.

I think because the love you’ve found with and in and through each other is so rare and precious that what you’re doing is unique – you’re making what’s private so very public.  You’re gathering people who have meaning in your life and asking them to surround you as you do the simplest and most profound thing we can do with another person – pledge your word, your life to each other.

Why do this?  Because your love is a gift to our crazy world.

Okay, so that’s saying a lot – but, hey, if your love isn’t a gift to others, then what is it?!

So, resolve to focus on the joy of your gift – and all else will follow.

Here’s to a new year of joy beyond what you can even imagine today!